Important Guidelines to Maintain Lawful F-1 Status

As an international student on an F-1 visa, it is important that you understand and comply with the immigration regulations to avoid problems that can interfere with your studies. It is the responsibility of each student to stay informed and maintain a lawful F-1 status during your stay in the United States. A violation of the immigration regulations could jeopardize your F-1 status, and lead to stoppage of your Weill Cornell stipend. The time to complete your degree may be severely delayed.  Violation of status can potentially lead to accrual “unlawful presence,” which has consequences on your eligibility to remain in the United States and/or future immigration benefits.

Be sure to read the guidelines below carefully and contact if you have any questions or concerns.

1) Mandatory Check-in and Orientation

Mandatory Check-in and Orientation

All new and transfer students are required to attend a mandatory check-in session during Orientation week, where you will review the requirements of F-1 status. Approximately two weeks prior to your program start date, you will receive an email with instructions regarding the check-in process.

2) Maintain Full-time Enrollment

Maintain Full-time Enrollment

F-1 students must register for full-time enrollment every semester for the duration of your studies. Failure to enroll full-time and register for courses for each semester/term in a timely manner could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and impact your continuing eligibility for F-1 benefits. Full-time enrollment differs from program to program, so be sure to check with you program.

F-1 students are required to receive authorization from your program of study and notify us before dropping below full-time, withdrawing from the program or taking a leave of absence.

If you are unable to meet or maintain full-time enrollment during your course of studies, you may be eligible to request for a Reduced Course Load authorization.

3) Do Not Work Without Authorization

Do Not Work Without Authorization

Working without authorization is a serious violation to your F-1 student status.

  • On-campus employment: F-1 students are eligible to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and as long as you are in valid F-1 status. This is the only type of employment that does not require an authorization. A student may begin working as much as 30 days before a start of a program of study. However, you must obtain the required permission from the PDSO/DSO before you begin working.
  • Off-campus employment: All off-campus employment or internships (paid or unpaid) require work authorization and is available only in certain situations. Students must be in F-1 status for at least one academic year prior to applying for work authorization.

4) Report Change of Information Within 10 Days

Report Change of Information Within 10 Days

Reporting a change of status, or intention to change status, is in your best interest.  There have been instances of not communicating in a timely manner adversely impacting the student.

Students must report the following changes within 10 days of the change.

  • U.S. Physical Address
  • U.S. Phone Number
  • Legal Name
  • Change of Status

This information must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a timely manner to maintain a lawful F-1 status.

  • For currently enrolled F-1 student, report changes with the F-1 Student Information Update E-Form.

F1 Student Info Report

  • For F-1 students on post-completion OPT or STEM-OPT, you are required to report to both: F-1 Student Information Update E-Form and the SEVP Portal

Students who have applied for post-completion OPT will receive an email from SEVP Portal to create an account once your OPT is approved. Thus, make sure to check the spam folder. For instructions on how to use the SEVP Portal, please visit SEVP Portal Help

5) Immigration Documents

Immigration Documents

It is important to make copies and keep all documents related to your immigration status in a safe place. You may need them in the future for USCIS applications.

  • I-20

Students are responsible to keep their I-20 up-to-date and inform us in a timely manner on the following changes. It is the student’s responsibility to keep all I-20s (include previous I-20s) for your permanent record.

    • Program End Date and I-20 Extension: If you need more time to complete your degree, you must get a written approval from your program of study or academic advisor, as well as submit the I-20 extension request at least 30 days before the “Program End Date” on your I-20. If it expires, you will be in violation of you F-1 status and may accrue days of “unlawful presence” that could potentially bar you from reentering the United States. For information on how to apply for an I-20 extension, please refer to the Program Extension on I-20 webpage.
    • Program Withdrawal: Inform us as soon as you decide to leave your program before completing it. You may remain in the United States for up to 15 days following your withdrawal date.
    • Change of Status: You must inform us within 10 days if you are changing to another nonimmigrant status such as becoming a permanent resident/green card holder, H-1B, J-1, etc. Please complete the online Change of Status form.


  • Passport

Do not let your passport expire. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months at all times.

  • F-1 Visa

You may legally remain in the U.S. even if your visa is expired so as long as you are in active I-20 status.  However, if you have an expired visa and travel abroad, to re-enter, you must do either:

1. Renew your F-1 visa before returning to the U.S., or
2. Automatic Visa Revalidation, if applicable. 

It is recommended that you renew your visa in your home country whenever possible. Attempting to renew your visa in a third country (not your home country or U.S.) may cause application delays or rejections.

6) Leave the U.S. Before Your Grace Period Ends

Leave the U.S. Before Your Grace Period Ends

International students in F-1 status have a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. to prepare for departure once you have:

  • Completed your program of study as indicated on your I-20; and
  • Completed any authorized F-1 post-completion OPT or STEM OPT

During the grace period, you may not work or re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status if you did not apply for a post-completion OPT.

An F-1 student who has been granted an authorized early withdrawal by their program of study and DSO may remain in the United States for up to 15 days following the withdrawal date noted in SEVIS.

7) Filing Taxes

Filing Taxes

F-1 students must file U.S. tax returns every year even if you had no U.S. income. Every student’s situation is different because it is dependent upon your nonimmigrant status, the amount of time you have spent in the U.S., type of income, and if your country has a tax treaty with the United States. Please contact HR Immigration Team ( for all tax related matters.

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    Clive Liew

    Student Services Administrator

    Book an appointment with WCGS International Student Services using SetMore

    Weill Cornell Medicine Graduate School of Medical Sciences 1300 York Ave. Box 65 New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-6565 Fax: (212) 746-5981

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